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Kenya/Tanzania Trip Report - 9/30-10/14

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Well - I've gotten done most of our trip report, with the exception of our stay at Fundu Lagoon which will be forthcoming. Please view our photos at:

http://loriandgregsafricatrip.shutterfly.com/action/

We were celebrating our 10th anniversary on this trip and we traveled with Good Earth Tours & would highly recommend them to anyone traveling within Kenya & Tanzania. They provided an excellent price and the guides were great.


We flew out of NYC on a Friday evening flight to Heathrow, which was very delayed. We arrived in Heathrow, needing to switch terminals and had to sprint to make our flight. We were yelling “wait, wait, don’t close the doors” as we ran to the gate. We made the flight, thankfully. We arrived 8 hours later in Nairobi, got our visas (took about 30-40 minutes) and then picked up our luggage.

A driver from Safari Line (the company that Good Earth Tours uses in Kenya) met us and drove us to the Nairobi Safari Club for the night. We had a nice room - it was a suite - and we showered and ate a late dinner in our room and then went to sleep for the night. We ate breakfast the following morning and then were greeted by a manager of Safari Line, Katherine, and our driver Edward. We thought that the greeting by Katherine was especially nice, since we did not expect it. We drove to Wilson Airport and caught our flight to Masai Mara. We were slightly concerned about the weight limit for our luggage, but our bags weighed in at 14Kg and 15Kg - so we were ok.

We arrived after the short flight at the Mara Serena airstrip - and had to stop the plane from departing again as they had not pulled off Greg’s bag. This caused the propellers to be stopped, and Greg had to climb up into the cargo space to point out his bag!! We got his bag and were met at the airstrip by William, our Safari Line guide for the next 3 days. On the way to the lodge, he took us on a quick drive to see our first animals, some of the wildebeest and impala. Upon arrival at the hotel, we unpacked and headed for a quick rest poolside, before lunch and our 4pm game drive.

Prior to our drive, we greeted William, our guide, with a couple of gifts - a NY Yankees baseball cap and a digital Nike sports watch. Our first game drive was great. Our vehicle was a white Toyota van with the pop-up top. Greg and I were amazed at the landscape, and the great number of animals. During this drive, we saw Lions - both male and female, giraffe, hyenas, topi, zebras, tons of wildebeest, impala, vultures, and Egyptian geese. We realized how nice it was having a private guide after our first game drive. We could spread out our stuff in the van and ask William to stop wherever we wanted. I would highly recommend getting a private guide if you can. We had a few local beers (Tusker) for our sundowners and then headed to dinner, and then to sleep.

Day 2 in the Mara: We did 3 game drives this day - an early morning, mid-morning after breakfast, and afternoon drive. We were truly amazed at all of the animals we saw this day. I had my heart set on seeing some elephants, and we saw 2 groups of them in the afternoon. We saw hippos, eland, giraffe, cape buffalo, more lions, water bucks, a martial eagle, and the elephants. However, the big highlight of the day was watching a cheetah devour a baby gazelle. We watched the cheetah eat its catch for about 20 minutes, and then followed it for awhile in the van. And then, late in the afternoon on our return to the Serena, Greg spotted another cheetah just lounging about in the bush. What a great day! The afternoon drive was followed once again by sundowners and dinner. The staff at the Serena surprised us after dinner with some celebratory songs and a cake congratulating Greg & I on our 10th anniversary. The staff started singing and we thought it was for someone else for a birthday or something! It was a very nice surprise (and the cake was tasty too!).

Day 3 in the Mara: William suggested that we do our drive at 8am instead of early morning. We were out for over 3 hours, seeing a pack of 8 lions, a few crocodile and several birds, along with many of the animals we had seen the prior two days. We relaxed by the pool in between our game drives, and admired the view from the Serena. During our afternoon drive, we saw elephants fighting (see photos), heard a lion’s roar and saw (and heard) lions mating. The lions mating was a sight - the male lion climbed on top of the female lion, did his business (with a loud roar) and then immediately flopped over and went to sleep!

Day 4 - Mara/Arusha: We awoke early to do a final game drive before departing the Serena for our flight to Nairobi & onto JRO. We saw many of the same animals that morning. We did see the hot air balloons from Governor’s Camp cross through the Mara. Our flights to Nairobi and JRO went off fine, and we got our visas quite quickly upon arrival at JRO. We were greeted by a Good Earth Representative and drove to Arusha, and then onto Arusha Coffee Lodge. Arusha Coffee Lodge is a beautiful place to stay - we were very impressed. We had a suite sized room, with a canopied bed, large bathroom and nice sitting area. The little amenities in the room were noted - coffee, sherry, cookies, and a fireplace. We rested for awhile and then had a delicious dinner with wine. The menu was diverse, and the food was great. We slept wonderfully on the king size bed outfitted with a fluffy down comforter. I would highly recommend Arusha Coffee Lodge to anyone passing through Arusha for the night.

Day 5 - Arusha/Tarangire: We had breakfast at Arusha Coffee Lodge and then were met by our guide from Good Earth for the next 4-5 days, Raphael. We began our journey to Tarangire, with plans to drive up and do a game drive before arriving at Swala Camp. During our drive, Raphael told us about the different areas we passed through, Tanzanian history, and other local information. We arrived at the entrance to the park and took our first photos of the Baobab tree. I took one of Greg standing next to it and you realize how large the tree is with a person standing next to it! We drove through the park all day. We saw many animals and birds that we hadn’t seen in the Mara. Our favorites during the day were the elephants bathing, the Dik Diks, and the various giraffes. We arrived at Swala late in the day, and were greeted by Reuben, the manager. Our tent was larger than we had expected, and very comfortable with a king size bed and a fluffy down comforter. After a nice hot shower, we met Raphael at the campfire for a drink and to discuss the plan for the next day. Our dinner at Swala was delicious. It was really amazing being that close to the animals at Swala, and while hearing the elephants and lions roar at all hours took some getting used to, it was really cool being in the bush.

Day 6 - Tarangire - Anniversary Day!: We woke up with the arrival of coffee & hot cocoa at our tent before breakfast. After a hot breakfast, we started out for the whole day in the park. We saw many great animals during our 2nd day in the park. Some of our favorites this day were the birds, especially the lilac breasted rollers and the little bee eater. The ostriches with the babies were a sight as well. We continued to be amazed with all of the elephants all over the park. We had a wonderful picnic lunch that was provided by Swala, in a nice wicker basket with wine, coffee, fresh bread and pastries for dessert. In the afternoon, Raphael took us to Poacher’s Hide, an enormous Baobab tree with a hole in it where animals would take their kills to eat. We saw some animals that are rare in many parks, including the Kudu. We arrived back at Swala and Raphael asked us to meet him at 8am the next morning to do something before breakfast. We had a drink by the campfire and then our anniversary dinner. The chef at Swala prepared a special meal for us, with fish for me (even though it wasn’t on the menu that night) and the staff sang to us and we had a special cake. Again - the food was delicious and the wine flowing.

Day 7 - Tarangire/Ngorongoro: We awoke and made our way to meet Raphael. He drove us to an area nearby Swala and we had a surprise bush breakfast! Swala had done this for us for our anniversary - complete with our own chef to make us hot breakfast, pastries, fruit, and juice. It was so nice of them. After breakfast, we departed Swala, and did a drive in the park as we made our way to the exit. We saw a bunch of female lions before exiting the park, a nice way to finish our time in Tarangire. Swala was amazing - we loved the secluded nature of the camp, and it was very romantic for us to celebrate our anniversary.

We drove onward up to the Crater and had lunch after passing into the Park. Raphael recommended that we go to Oldupai Gorge and the Masaai Village instead of doing that the following day, and that we could spend the entire next day in the Crater. We drove to a Masaai Village right by Oldupai Gorge and were greeted by the leader of the village. The women began to dance for us, and motioned for me to join them. It was really fun to dance with them, and experience their happiness. The men danced in a group beside the female group - Greg was shooting pictures so he didn’t dance with the men. Afterwards, the village leader took us into his hut and told us how the huts were made, how the village operates, gets food, etc. We walked around to look at the jewelry made by the Masaai women and I bought a few bracelets. We then went to the school within the village and Greg and I distributed pens to all of the children - they went wild for them! We made a contribution to the village as well. The visit was a definite highlight of our trip. Onto Oldupai Gorge - where we read about the history of the gorge, the findings there and viewed the landscape. We had a brief lesson from a ranger at the Gorge and took some photos. After, we headed back to the Crater and checked in at the Serena. We relaxed and cleaned up in our room and then met Raphael for a sundowner again before heading off to dinner.

Day 8 - Ngorongoro Crater: We departed around 8am for our first drive in the Crater. The prior day we were amazed with the size of the crater, and as we descended we felt the same. Given that we hadn’t seen a rhino or leopard at this point - we were anxious and hopeful to see both. During the day in the crater - we were fortunate to see 2 rhinos, but the only leopard was in a tree and unfortunately none of our photos came out very good. Animals seen included flamingoes, many other birds, hyenas, hippos, a cheetah, and monkeys. We were surprised that we didn’t see many elephants in the crater. We enjoyed our lunch at one of the lunch areas, with birds that kept trying to eat people’s food. It was quite amusing! The temperature all day in the crater was nice and cool, although there was a lot of dust everywhere. We got back to the hotel, washed up and had drinks with Raphael again. Across the crater, there was a fire set by the Masaai people to burn the brush that looked to be out of control. Fortunately, there was a heavy rain shower that evening that doused the fire. Our dinner that night was nice and relaxing, and we slept fitfully.

Day 9 - Ngorongoro Crater and onto Pemba: We awoke early to meet Raphael for a game drive before departing for Arusha. We were one of the first trucks into the crater. We immediately saw hyenas with gnu remains, carrying the horns, and saw ostriches doing their mating dance. A highlight was watching an impala give birth to a baby - this was an unexpected bonus. The baby just popped out, and then the mother nudged the baby to get it to start moving. It was really touching. We ate breakfast by the hippo pool, and then we were on our way out of the crater and stopped to view some mature male lions before departing.

We drove onto Arusha and said our farewells to Raphael. He was an incredible guide - super knowledgeable about all of the animals, their mating habits, and just about Tanzania in general. His love of the animals and the wild was incredible. We would recommend that anyone using Good Earth specifically request Raphael as their guide.

Our flights to Zanzibar & Pemba went smoothly, and we were greeted by a driver for Fundu Lagoon. He drove us to the speedboat to take to Fundu, and pointed out various fruit & spice trees/plants along the way. We boarded the speedboat and arrived at Fundu Lagoon about 15-20 minutes later. Fundu is breathtaking - we arrived on the speedboat at the end of the pier and were greeted by Julia, the manager.

I'll post our time at Fundu in the coming days...

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